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USA, 2008, 90 Minute Running Time
Program: Documentary FilmsLanguage: English
Producer: George Butler, Elisabeth Haviland James, Robert NixonEditor: Jean Tsien, Li-Shin YuScreenwriter: Caroline AlexanderCinematographer: Sandi Sissel
In 2004, alerted to the first reported sighting of the ivory-billed woodpecker since 1944, brigades of ornithologists who’d presumed the species extinct mobilized to explore the vestiges of wilderness in the southeastern United States. Drawing compelling testimony from passionate birders who have been waiting all their lives for a glimpse of the iconic, elusive, so-called Lord God Bird, National Geographic–backed documentarian George Butler (In the Blood, SDFF 12)—who’s perhaps best known for putting Arnold Schwarzenegger on the pop radar in Pumping Iron—considers the debate over the validity of the sighting. Scientific experts on both sides marshal technological and field research techniques in the attempt to solve the mystery once and for all. But a special emotional charge invests the efforts of yaysayers who believe the bird still exists. They speak with conviction, purpose, yearning—and, in some cases, radiant happiness amid claims of actual visitations.
The suspense builds as their quest moves from the woefully small refuges of Texas to the swamp forests of Arkansas, the bayous of Louisiana, and the wetlands of the Florida panhandle. Paddling vigilantly through unexpectedly beautiful surroundings, they all have their own obsessive agendas and their own strategies for meeting them. In the end, it is symbolic power that the bird brings to these naturalists’ lives, representing as it does the loss of the wild, in all its mystical wonder, to human incursion. More than one scientist speaks of the well-organized search as “our last ray of hope”—a metaphor that, in light of the goal, could not be more poignant.
In cooperation with Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory
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